war on the rocks

The Interview: No One Promised Hitchcock

December 25, 2014

“The Interview” is a silly, fun movie that you’ll want the kids out of the room for. If you are (or were) expecting Kubrick or Hitchcock, I’m assuming you didn’t pay attention to the part of the trailer where Seth Rogan has to hide a drone payload in his butt. He had to loosen up quite a bit to do that and I’d recommend you do the same before watching (figuratively, of course).

I can see why North Korea would hate this parody of Kim Jong Un. An alcohol-swilling trust-fund brat with daddy issues, megalomania, and a penchant for Katy Perry isn’t the image one wants for a 31 year-old god-king whose internal mythos is that he is formidable genius. Now, some who would rather North Korea’s dictator be shown less subtly and more seriously as an abusive and uncaring beast may find this decadent and silly image jarring – but parody and disrespect can often be more damaging to dictators. Byt why feed into the Kim Regime’s own narrative of fear, when you could just have him cry and (spoiler alert) poo his pants. Even in “Team America: World Police,” though comical, North Korea’s previous dictator is shown as particularly insidious and clever. In “The Interview,” Kim Jong Un is just a common asshole, but one with power.

To those pulling out their tin foil hats and claiming that Sony managed to pull one over on the planet by manufacturing this whole scandal – just remember that the thing about soft power is that you can’t always control how it goes down. Someone associated with North Korea hated the movie, blackmailed Sony, and made “The Interview” the centerpiece of a debate on how easy Western media could be blackmailed or bent. Unfortunately for those who prefer their stabs against tyranny to be in metaphor and verse –  Authoritarian regimes don’t only hate works like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago – sometimes they hate Yakov Smirnoff or fart jokes just as much. If we got to choose how despotic regimes reacted to things, life would be much easier.

So, if you want to enjoy some jabs at North Korea (and ourselves) amidst bawdy swears from James Franco and Seth Rogan, I recommend “The Interview.” If you use “aficionado” to describe yourself or never stray into comedy, stick with something more highbrow and pour yourself a glass of Malbec. Nothing wrong with that, I’m a fan of the fine reds myself. That said, “The Interview” is probably best left for those of us who also don’t mind a boilermaker and some irreverent soft power.

“The Interview” is playing at some theaters and can also be watched online from the comfort of your own home

Matthew Hipple is a U.S. Navy surface warfare officer. A graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, he is Director of the NEXTWAR blog for the Center for International Maritime Security. While his opinions may not reflect those of the United States Navy, Department of Defense, or U.S. Government, he wishes they did. Follow him on twitter: @AmericaHipple.